Panerai began making watches in Florence, Italy back in 1860, but it wasn’t until the 1930s that the firm produced its first wristwatch. By then its roots in Florence were as deep as those in Switzerland, where Panerai watches were produced.
The breakthrough for the company was an order for diving watches from the Italian Navy, for whom Panerai had been creating instruments of various types since the turn of the century. With a war coming on, the navy was keen to outfit its elite corps of frogmen with wristwatches.
Featuring a Rolex movement, the limited-edition Panerai Radiomir (only 300 were made) was designed for use by commandos and torpedo riders—frogmen who rode a slow-moving torpedo toward a target before attaching a timed mine to the underside of a ship and then riding away. The watches had a cushion-shaped case, a screw-down crown to keep water out of the movement, and oiled-leather straps that were long enough to be worn on the outside of a diving suit. Given their limited supply and the tough conditions they were subjected to, these watches are very highly prized by collectors today.
The watch took its name, Radiomir, from the luminous material that Panerai first developed in 1910. Made of zinc sulphide and radium bromide, Radiomir allowed the numbers and hands on a watch to be read in dark conditions. It was replaced in 1949 by Luminor, which glows thanks to the presence of tritium, a less-dangerous compound than radium bromide.
Throughout the 1950s and ’60s, Panerai continued to produce wristwatches for the Italian Navy in regular and destro (left-handed) versions. Some watches from this period were known as Trittico watches, thanks to their trio of features, which included a depth gauge.
Panerai also made Kampfschwimmer watches, some with so-called California dials (numbers on the bottom, Roman numerals on the top), for Germany’s only postwar commando unit. And in 1956, Panerai created a large-face Radiomir watch for the Egyptian Navy.
Panerai might have remained a military diving watch in the minds of the public had it not been for Sylvester Stallone, who, in 1995, purchased a Luminor while on location in Italy. Sales of the watches jumped after its debut in Stallone’s “Daylight,” and Sly even had some watches—dubbed Slytech—made with his signature engraved on the back. These he gave as gifts to friends, including fellow action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger.
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2015 Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge heads to NewportSail World, August 28th
The 2015 Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge (PCYC) North American Circuit will be in full sail over Labor Day weekend for the 36th annual Museum of Yachting Classic Yacht Regatta (MoY CYR) in Newport, Rhode Island. The MoY CYR will take place on ...Read more
Officine Panerai opens “History and Legend” exhibition in SingaporeSouth China Morning Post (subscription), August 27th
Panerai is taking people on a journey to revisit iconic moments for the brand. The “History and Legend” exhibition opened in Singapore's ION Orchard earlier this week (26 August) and is open to the public until September 6...Read more
Panerai Opens Flagship Boutique In Miami Design DistrictForbes, August 26th
There are few more protective of these codes than Angelo Bonati, CEO of Officine Panerai. There's a good reason for this. He has been the head person and first employee of the luxury watch brand since 1997 when it was purchased by Richemont. What the ...Read more
Officine Panerai 'History and Legend' Exhibition at ION Orchard in SingaporeSENATUS, August 23rd
Florentine luxury watchmaker Officine Panerai is set to showcase the "History and Legend" exhibition from 26 August to 6 September 2015 at ION Orchard, the exclusive shopping mall where the only Officine Panerai boutique in Singapore is based. This...Read more
Borrowed Time: On the Waves With the Panerai Luminor 1950 Chrono Flyback CeramicaWatchtime.com, August 21st
As legions of Paneristi are aware, Officine Panerai has had a long association with the sea; the brand was, after all, established as a supplier of professional diving watches to the Italian Navy. More than a decade ago, the Florence-born, Swiss-made...Read more
2015 Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge heads to Nantucket + VideoSail World, August 15th
2015 Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge – After a series of successful races in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, UK, and Marblehead, MA, the PCYC reaches Nantucket, MA next week for the 43rd annual Opera House Cup Regatta (OHC). The OHC Regatta will ...Read more
Panerai — Vidéo. Panerai SubmersibleWorldTempus, August 7th
Avec la ligne Luminor Submersible, Officine Panerai réinterprète ce glorieux passé et propose des montres étanches à 300 m (30 bar) et une fonction cruciale pour la sécurité des plongeurs: une lunette tournante pour calculer la durée de la plongée...Read more
Dramatic Scenery On And Off The Wrist: Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge At ...Quill & Pad, August 1st
If you love watches and enjoy the ever-changing current of the Solent, then you might really enjoy watching the comings and goings of yachts of many classes during the British Classic Week in Cowes, Isle of Wight, England. Italian watch giant Panerai...Read more